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Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press
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Convenience Store Woman

by Sayaka Murata

The English-language debut of an exciting young voice in international fiction, selling 660,000 copies in Japan alone, Convenience Store Woman is a bewitching portrayal of contemporary Japan through the eyes of a single woman who fits in to the rigidity of its work culture only too well

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 176
  • Publication Date June 12, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2825-6
  • Dimensions 5" x 7"
  • US List Price $20.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Publication Date June 12, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6580-0
  • US List Price $0.00

About the Book

Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. For her part, in the convenience store she finds a predictable world mandated by the store manual, which dictates how the workers should act and what they should say, and she copies her coworkers’ style of dress and speech patterns so that she can play the part of a normal person. However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life, but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis—but will it be for the better?

Sayaka Murata brilliantly captures the atmosphere of the familiar convenience store that is so much part of life in Japan. With some laugh-out-loud moments prompted by the disconnect between Keiko’s thoughts and those of the people around her, she provides a sharp look at Japanese society and the pressure to conform, as well as penetrating insights into the female mind. Convenience Store Woman is a fresh, charming portrait of an unforgettable heroine that recalls Banana Yoshimoto, Han Kang, and Amélie.

Tags Literary

Praise

An Indies Introduce Title
An Indie Next Pick
An Elle Magazine Best Summer Book Pick
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Electric Literature
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by April Magazine

“Reading Convenience Store Woman—a spare, quietly brilliant novel about an offbeat woman whose life revolves around the convenience store she works at—is like being lulled into a soft calm . . . Though she feels like the odd one out, it’s her frank appraisal of the systems of the world that reveals the absurdity of everyone else. Whey has society at large agreed to live by these arbitrary rules? And why does everyone else treat Keiko’s rejection of these rules like a threat?”—BuzzFeed

“Sayaka Murata’s novel Convenience Store Woman playfully illustrates the daily routines and ruminations of an eccentric Tokyo salesclerk.”—Elle

“Murata’s strange and quirky novel was a runaway hit in Japan, and Ginny Tapley Takemori’s English translation introduces it to a new group of readers—a slim, entrancing read that can be consumed in one sitting.”—Passport

“Murata’s slim and stunning Akutagawa Prize-winning novel follows 36-year-old Keiko Furukura, who has been working at the same convenience store for the last 18 years, outlasting eight managers and countless customers and coworkers . . . Murata’s smart and sly novel, her English-language debut, is a critique of the expectations and restrictions placed on single women in their 30s. This is a moving, funny, and unsettling story about how to be a ‘functioning adult’ in today’s world.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The prestigious Akutagawa Prize-winning Murata, herself a part-time ‘convenience store woman,’ makes a dazzling English-language debut in a crisp translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori rich in scathingly entertaining observations on identity, perspective, and the suffocating hypocrisy of ‘normal’ society.”—Booklist (starred review)

“A sly take on modern work culture and social conformism, told through one woman’s 18-year tenure as a convenience store employee . . . Murata provides deceptively sharp commentary on the narrow social slots people—particularly women—are expected to occupy and how those who deviate can inspire bafflement, fear, or anger in others . . . Murata skillfully navigates the line between the book’s wry and weighty concerns and ensures readers will never conceive of the ‘pristine aquarium’ of a convenience store in quite the same way. A unique and unexpectedly revealing English language debut.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Murata’s writing, nicely rendered by Takemori’s translation, uses the characters of Keiko and Shiraha to deliver a thought-provoking commentary on the meaning of conforming to the expectations of society. While Murata’s novel focuses on life in Japanese culture, her storytelling will resonate with all people and experiences.”—Library Journal

“A compelling novel about conformity in society, and the baffling rules applied in work and life . . . This brief, brisk novel is an engrossing adventure into an unusual mind. Is it a subversive, satiric criticism of societal norms? Is it a surrealist take on extreme workplace culture? Or simply the perspective of a woman wired a little bit differently? Murata holds the reader rapt, wondering what Keiko will do next. Convenience Store Woman is for all kinds of readers, for anyone who’s ever questioned the status quo.”—Shelf Awareness

Convenience Store Woman is a gem of a book. Quirky, deadpan, poignant, and quietly profound, it is a gift to anyone who has ever felt at odds with the world—and if we were truly being honest, I suspect that would be most of us.”—Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being

“What a weird and wonderful and deeply satisfying book this is. Sayaka Murata is an utterly unique and revolutionary voice. I tore through Convenience Store Woman with great delight.”—Jami Attenberg, New York Times bestselling author of The Middlesteins and All Grown Up

“A darkly comic, deeply unsettling examination of contemporary life, of alienation, of capitalism, of identity, of conformity. We’ve all been to this convenience store, whether it’s in Japan or somewhere else.”—Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer

“This is a story about what’s normal and not, a drama played on a stage so violently plain it becomes as vivid and surprising as an alien planet. I loved Convenience Store Woman: its brevity, its details, its opinions about life.”—Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

“I picked up this novel on a trip to Japan and couldn’t put it down. A haunting, dark, and often hilarious take on society’s expectations of the single woman. As an extra bonus, it totally transformed my experience of going to convenience stores in Tokyo.”—Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot

Convenience Store Woman is a mighty fine book, completely charming. Sayaka Murata is a wonderful writer.”—Rabih Alameddine, author of An Unnecessary Woman

“Instructions: Open book. Consume contents. Feel charmed, disturbed, and weirdly in love. Do not discard.”—Jade Chang, author of The Wangs Vs. the World

“This novel made me laugh. It was the first time for me to laugh in this way: it was absurd, comical, cute . . . audacious, and precise. It was overwhelming.”—Hiromi Kawakami, author of The Nakano Thrift Shop

“Witty, wily, and astonishingly sharp, Convenience Store Woman proves that the deepest gouges can come from the lightest touch.”—Lisa McInerney, author of The Glorious Heresies

Convenience Store Woman is snarky and tender. It shows a woman trying to puzzle out how to be normal. This brilliant book will resonate with all of us who find life a little strange.”—Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You

“I think the riskiest kind of novel is the one that tries to rescue us from mundane existence—by taking a closer look at mundane existence . . . In this context, it is easy to say that Murata-san’s novel is a major breakthrough. Convenience Store Woman is not an explosion of candor, but it manages to both be cool to the touch and have depths of warmth in presenting to us a heroine who feels at a remove from the world around her. This is a fine high wire act to walk. One of the finest I have seen in a long time from so young a writer.”—John Freeman, Literary Hub

 

 

“A hilarious novel . . . Convenience Store Woman mocks the culture of work, the employee’s devotion to their patron saint, and pokes fun at the conservative mindset. For what is a young woman worth if she has neither professional ambition nor a desire to get married?”—Marie-France (France)

“A portrait of the challenge of being different in an ultra-policed society that ostracizes anyone who deviates even slightly from the norm . . . a bittersweet satire.”—Livres-Hebro (France)

“A love story pulled out of the deep-freeze shelves of the heart . . . brilliant . . . not a word too many, nor one too few . . . true love is the simple and beautiful moral of this unusual yet uplifting story.”—Die Zeit (Germany)

“This work merely describes the tiny world of a small box—a convenience store . . . yet it packs all the appeal of a [long] novel. In all my ten-plus years on the panel of judges, this is the first time one of the shortlisted works has had me laughing. And somehow that laugh was charged with a profound sense of irony. Bravo Murata-san!”—Amy Yamada

“I was really amazed by Convenience Store Woman and the particular reality it exquisitely portrays . . . [It] minutely translates the sadness, anguish, grief, grumbles, fateful actions etc. of someone who is incapable of uttering the right words, adding layers of details and spinning them into a story . . . I am sincerely delighted that such a novel has come into being.”—Ryu Murakami

“Choosing to give your novel a narrator who is not normal, someone who is aware that there is something strange about herself, is not an easy choice. Flaunting strangeness as a privilege sometimes repels the reader. But Convenience Store Woman skilfully evades this reaction. When the protagonist, a social outcast, is placed within the box of the artificially normalized convenience store, we begin to vividly see the strangeness of the people in the world outside.”—Yoko Ogawa

“Reading something of a person who starts to work in retail and never figures a way out of doing so, years along in doing so—to something else of possible meaning in life—could make for harrowing reading when the reader would seem to have the same issue. That said, Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman, while at times harrowing in that the intrepid narrator and heart of this extraordinary novel can’t see or name all that a reader might, is a book of longing, charm, sincerity, and subtle, understated knowing.  It speaks to diligence and duty over time, is one of the rare books that really addresses and embodies work, the routine and rhythms of work in a retail store such as so many people do. A wonderful debut from a writer we hope to read much more of in years to come.”—Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company

“This was a quick, quirky little book that I thoroughly enjoyed. A glimpse into the life of a woman who only feels productive and part of society when she’s working in a convenience store. It was unique and like nothing I’ve read before.”—Christine Onorati, WORD Bookstores

“Keiko Furukura has her life figured out. Sure, she’s in her mid-thirties and works in a convenience store, but she loves her job. One day, however, she decides to give in to convention just a little, and her simple life becomes a lot less fun. Convenience Store Woman is a winning blend of the familiar and the absurd, and readers of this deft little novel will enjoy a trip to a Japan that’s well off the tourist trail.”—David Enyeart, Common Good Books

“If you ever wanted to read an existential fable set mostly in a Japanese quick mart, Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is the book for you. Narrator Keiko has never been able to figure out quite how the world wants her to act—that is, until she starts working at an all-night convenience store. There, she can finally, happily, be a cog in the machine. Eighteen years later, her family and friends all beg her to move on and be ‘normal.’ Keiko, not knowing what this means or how to do it, then proceeds to make things much worse. Murata’s delightfully strange novel is at once hilarious, profound, and consistently unsettling.”—Danny Caine, Raven Bookstore

“Sometimes touching and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, Convenience Store Woman is a delightfully sideways tribute to being yourself, no matter what others might think.”—Rebecca Oppenheimer from Kramerbooks & Afterwords

“Keiko is a real outsider’s outsider, the kind of character that sticks to your ribs, and Murata’s writing grips you . . . I look forward to sharing it with customers the traditional bookseller way (shoving it into people’s hands and exclaiming ‘you’ve got to read this!’).”—Devon Dunn, Book Culture

“A book that belied and subverted all my expectations of a quirky, Office Girl-type novel (not that that would’ve been a bad thing at all) into something far different, somehow unsettling and comforting at the same time. One of those books that I feel will be like a secret code between people who have read it.”—Nathan Halter, The Doylestown Bookshop

“I think that this is a very rare book. A book that kind of unflinchingly looks at the societal pressures that surround and shape all of us as we try to go about our lives. This is a book about Keiko, a woman who honestly does not fit in to what is considered the ‘proper’ way to be. She finds solace and comfort in her work as a convenience store worker where she clearly knows the rules, as there is no manual for regular life. This was at times hilarious but at others poignant and I really appreciated the juxtaposition. I would highly recommend this one to those looking for a new voice; a distinctly feminist voice. Definitely a great find!”—Will Bason, Bookpeople

“How can you not be charmed by the main character of Convenience Store Woman? She knows what she wants out of life, and who is anyone to say she needs anything different? The power of this novel is not in a sweeping landscape or journey, but in its intimacy, humor, and empathy for this very human, knowable woman.”—Tyler Goodson, Avid Bookshop (Athens, GA)

“This strange English debut is an exploration of the psyche of a woman who feels removed from the emotional threads of humanity. Once she recognizes this ‘fault’ in herself, she embraces the freedom that being quiet, and therefore left alone, can bring her. Once in college, she gets a job at a newly opened convenience store and quickly becomes a creature of habit reliant on the redundancy of the store’s sterile environment. The novel picks up with her having worked there for 18 years, and while not ready to make any changes, she is ready to have people stop prying into her life and happiness. This novel is a strong commentary on obsessive work culture, but I recommend it more due to its calculated, removed prose and for the way it creates such a unique narration and set of characters.”—Ely Watson, A Room of One’s Own Bookstore (Madison, WI)

“What an interesting little book! I found myself enchanted with the details of Keiko’s work day and her interactions with her customers and co-workers. A quick, delightful read.”—Beth Seufer, Buss of Bookmarks (Winston-Salem, NC)

“A funny and thought-provoking look at how much society demands conformity and the strain and stress those demands put on those who cannot. Short and easily readable with a breezy tone, it packs a deceptive punch that makes Murata’s English-language debut perfect for book club discussions.”—Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington Public Library

Awards

An Indies Introduce Title
An Indie Next Pick
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Elle
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Electric Literature
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by April Magazine

Excerpt

My present self is formed almost completely of the people around me. I am currently made up of 30 percent Mrs. Izumi, 30 percent Sugawara, 20 percent the manager, and the rest absorbed from past colleagues such as Sasaki, who left six months ago, and Okasaki, who was our supervisor until a year ago.

My speech is especially inflected by everyone around me and is currently a mix of that of Mrs. Izumi and Sugawara. I think the same goes for most people. When some of Sugawara’s band members came into the store recently they all dressed and spoke just like her. After Mrs. Izumi came, Sasaki started sounding just like her when she said, “Good job, see you tomorrow!” Once a woman who had gotten on well with Mrs. Izumi at her previous store came to help out, and she dressed so much like Mrs. Izumi I almost mistook the two. And I probably infect others with the way I speak too. Infecting each other like this is how we maintain ourselves as human is what I think.

Outside work Mrs. Izumi is rather flashy, but she dresses the way normal women in their thirties do, so I take cues from the brand of shoes she wears and the label of the coats in her locker. Once she left her makeup bag lying around in the back room and I took a peek inside and made a note of the cosmetics she uses. People would notice if I copied her exactly, though, so what I do is read blogs by people who wear the same clothes she does and go for the other brands of clothes and kinds of shawls they talk about buying. Mrs. Izumi’s clothes, accessories, and hairstyles always strike me as the model of what a woman in her thirties should be wearing.

As we were chatting in the back room, her gaze suddenly fell on the ballet flats I was wearing. “Oh, those shoes are from that shop in Omotesando, aren’t they? I like that place too. I have some boots from there.” In the back room she speaks in a languid drawl, the end of her words slightly drawn out. I bought these flats after checking the brand name of the shoes she wears for work while she was in the toilet.